Vermont’s piano man, John Cassel, died unexpectedly on Sept. 17 of a heart attack after another evening doing what he so loved: playing music at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. He was 78.

Born John Austin Cassel on June 25, 1936, in Ridgewood, N.J., John’s romance with music began when he was four years old, and he grew up with an 1882 Steinway as his constant companion.

After graduating from the Principia in St. Louis, Mo., John attended Yale where he was a member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs and Skull and Bones, earning a bachelor’s degree in English in 1958.

His long musical career began on Martha’s Vineyard, where he played his first professional gig at age 14. He rarely missed a night of playing in the ensuing 64 years.

His solo virtuosity notwithstanding, John was also an accomplished bandleader and arranger with a magnetism that attracted other fine musicians. Setting the stage, he then delighted in the always surprising results, as did so many of us over the years.

As a teenager John spent summers on Martha’s Vineyard, where he sailed Silver Heels, the family’s Vineyard Haven 15 racing class wooden sloop. Sailing out of the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, he raced for several years garnering numerous trophies and awards. John also taught private sailing lessons, and later launched the successful Selfin Sailing Center, located adjacent to the Steamship Authority wharf in Vineyard Haven, renting and selling Sunfish and offering sailing instruction.

John moved to Bakersfield, Vt., in 1967, where his hill farm became a nexus for musicians, Falstaffian feasts and rambunctious, riotous revelry. He was our exuberant circus master, pied piper, Bacchus and Peter Pan. A sweet man of unstinting modesty, energy and generosity, he had a dazzling gift for both experiencing and dispensing joy. Profoundly happy in this life, John was devoted to his beloved Becky, his family, his friends, his music, and the land and community he so wisely chose to call home.

He was predeceased by his parents Norman S. Cassel and Zeona Austin Cassel, and a brother, N. Douglas Cassel.

He is survived by his wife Rebecca Cassel; daughters Sandra Calandrella and Amy Marchessault and her husband Brian Marchessault; his sister Janice Burnham and her husband Yerbury Burnham and brother Bruce Cassel and his wife Thyra Cassel; sister in law Pamela Cassel; his grandchildren, Heather Westcom, Brittany Westcom, Nick Marchessault, Grace Calandrella and Benjamin Calandrella; and great-grandchildren Lee Tatro, Hunter Tatro and Roland Adams as well as many nieces and nephews.

He also leaves behind an extensive body of recorded work and memories that, like his music, will continue to delight us. John exited this life as he lived it: full-tilt, grinning into the wind.

Celebrations of John’s life and music will be held on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Fairfield Community Center, 124 School street, East Fairfield, Vt., from 1 to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 2, at Trapp Family Lodge, 700 Trapp Hill Road, Stowe, Vt., from 1 to 3 p.m.

In lieu of flowers contributions to his memory may be made to the Fairfield Community Center, 124 School street, East Fairfield, VT 05448.